Thursday, April 19, 2012


Levon Helm

May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012

Ah, a huge loss to music, acting, neighbors, friends, mankind.

To each of us.

Just listen to him sing, you'll hear it.

It must be 1968 or so and I am reading an interview with Jimi Hendrix and there's the guitar god speaking like an excited kid about a band by the name of The Band.

Hendrix mentioned an album titled "Music From Big Pink".

What in the world? I thought.

Immediately I went out the door, down the drive, along the sidewalk of houses and dogs and friends until I came to my small town and kept walking, to the Main Street
and into the red doors of Woolworth's and there in the record bin, about three wide,
was the album Hendrix had spoken about. Praised to the heavens. New in plastic and $2.95.
Capitol Records.

I bought it with little money I owned.

Played the record to death.

And still play it.

I was a drummer then and Levon was a drummer, one who sang with a great side whip charging southern voice. He was calvary.

Decades later we raised a son and he became a drummer and of course he took to Levon like every drummer I ever met did. One day he called Levon, who he didn't know, and Levon certainly didn't know him, and it was just after Levon's throat surgery for cancer and he spoke quite awhile to this young sixteen year old drummer.

I could get tears in my eyes thinking of that quality of man.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band on Grooveshark

by the way ~
this wheel's on fire is a terrific read
title taken from a terrific song
and one of the
top-notch books ever published
in this country on music,
musicians and the road


Luster said...

I can't tell you the level of loss we feel here in Arkansas. He was our musical keel, the line that connected the rockabilly of Ronnie Hawkins and Conway Twitty to the electric poetry of Bob Dylan and beyond. He was the very first person I interviewed back in 1978, and he couldn't have been more gracious, giving me two hours of his time, treating each question with respect, though I'm sure he had answered each of them many many times. When Robbie Robertson left the Band, it was Levon who championed a group of Arkansas musicians, The Cate Brothers,to join he and the others on the road. He showed heart and excellence and generosity in everything he did. He's left a Lennon-sized hole here.


Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Native Son writing about and to and for Native son — nothing could be sweeter, Mike. Thank you from here, and the many who may hear and read your words and may never say a word back. It's in the songs.

all's well, Bob